Rick Santorum's taking on frontrunner status and it's keeping some Republicans up at night.
R. Clarke Cooper, the executive director of Log Cabin Republicans, a group focused on the inclusion of the LBGTQ community in the GOP, says Santorum's role in the presidential race could be a major blow to the Republican party even if he doesn't win the nomination.
"It is a concern on the long-term view. If voters see my party as intolerant or not relevant, that is going to be hard to recover from," Cooper says.
Cooper fears Santorum's campaign damages Mitt Romney, who in an effort to appeal to socially conservative Santorum supporters, has lost independent voters' support in recent weeks.
"If we want to hold any long-term power at the national level, especially in the large states, the party has to appeal to independents," Cooper says.
Cooper doubts Santorum will get the nomination considering his delegate count, financial vulnerabilities and lack of party official support, but Cooper still views Santorum's shaping the race in a major way by heavily focusing on family values.
Without social issues, Cooper says the GOP would stand a much better chance of resonating with independent and even GOP voters in the general election.
In 2010, when the GOP took back the House, Cooper says the cast of candidates rallied around repealing "Obamacare," firing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and reining in government spending. Absent, however, in their message was anything about gay marriage or birth control. "The unofficial instruction from the leadership was if you cannot say anything nice, don't say anything at all," Cooper says.
It's still unclear what the Republican Party's attack strategy will be come the general election, but Cooper says GOP Chairman Rience Priebus recognizes the big picture.
"He's been the most accessible chairman in the history of Log Cabin," Cooper says. "He's the youngest chairman we've had in years, and he understands the need of the party to expand or die."
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